If you have been following this blog since the beginning, you all know that I am a fan of “The Walking Dead.” That fandom includes being both an avid podcast listener and occasional free agent podcaster. I have friends who have taken their super fan status and parlayed it into phenomenon known as “Walker Stalker Con” and it happens in seven different cities per year. They throw these incredible fan experiences that include celebrity panel discussions, cosplay contests, unique and specialized vendor, photo ops and special surprises. In their own words, “Walker Stalker Con is not just a convention. It is a fan meet-up and an opportunity for each guest to come away feeling like they’ve had an amazing experience and became part of a greater community of zombie lovers! Walker Stalker Con is two or three days of events, panels, and experiences that zombie fans won’t find anywhere else!” These cons have expanded to include celebrities from television shows such as “Breaking Bad”, “Lost,” movies like “Gremlins”, Freddy Krueger flicks, and many “… of the Deads.” Aside from meeting my boyfriend at the inaugural Walker Stalker Con Atlanta 2013, I have also made new connections and friendships to a ton of incredibly creative, funny and talented people.
WSC SF was the first one held on the West Coast and although I am an Island Girl, I am also a Bay Area baby. The con schedule also coincided with my daughter’s birthday, so it we made plans to go. She could hardly contain her excitement at meeting celebrities, actors and podcasters alike. We’ve been to SDCC twice so far but WSC is so intimate compared to the beast that is SDCC, I knew this would be an incredible experience for her. My friends who host ““The Walking Dead’Cast” are based out of SF so they had planned a live podcast recording and meet-up for Friday evening. And, to top it all off, Jason offered me the opportunity to host a couple of panels. Time to get my Black Milk con gear picked out. Chee-pono!
(I bought the Zombie Nation Skater dress specifically for WSC ATL 2013 and I love it. That purchase led me to a Sharkie addition to their leggings, shooters and dresses.)
Fri night, the “Bob-B-Q” and ive podcast with Jason and Karen of “The Walking Dead’Cast” (Follow @jasonandkaren on the tweets.)
When we arrived, we were excited about the con and pretended to be afraid of walkers!
Jason and Karen hosted a live podcast, along with Mr. Blahg, and part of the set decor was a callback to our groups’ arrival at Terminus.
(That photo was from May 2014, before they had come back to start shooting.)
The character Gareth had a “truth trough” that he used to sort out whether those who arrived would survive. If newcomers accepted the cannibal lifestyle, they would live. If not, smack went their heads and slit went their throats. Jason decided it would be fun (fun?) to have a trough on stage during his live podcast and ask contestants from the audience to answer trivia question. Failure was not an option. Here are the girls dressing the set piece.
The live podcast was a lot of fun, with special guest Melissa Hutchinson and Gavin Hammond, two VO actors from Tell Tale Games “The Walking Dead.” That game is extremely story driven and it was my crack for a few weeks. I found myself swept up emotionally to the point where I cried at the end of Season One. No. I sobbed. Melissa and Gavin have such a close working relationship that their panel felt more like having drinks during Happy Hour with friends. They provided insight into the game and shared a little bit about being a VO actor. My favorite part of the panel was when they tried to switch roles and Melissa played Kenny (who swears a lot) and Gavin played Clementine, the pre-tween girl in the game. Honestly, I’m not sure who had more fun with the live podcast panel, the folks on stage or those of us in the audience.
And it turned out that J&K had a surprise up their sleeves to celebrate the birthdays of Mr. Blahg and my daughter. Quite a special birthday for my daughter, right? And the con had not even begun.
Day One of the con, we arrived during the VIP opening hours to see the vendor hall before the general admission masses descended. We ran into James (of James and Eric, the godfathers of the Walker Stalkers Podcast and convention.) Yup, James is one of the OG Walker Stalkers who founded WSC. I got my hug, we said our hellos and before he zipped off, James looked at his watch and said, “The next two hours will make or break the success of today, how things flow and how the crowds move, this is it…” WSC SF was a success and they announced that they will be back in 2016!
In my own mind, I was excited to be moderating my first WSC panel. In my day job, I host meetings, lead education courses, moderate panels and speak at conferences but I hadn’t ever led a panel at a con. My assignment for Day One was the Cosplay Contest. Whoop whoop! Talk about a fun way to jump into panels and to end the first day of the con. The lead person for all things WSC Cosplay is Hacksaw Jack and we had been corresponding via email. We met for the first time and Hacksaw was setting up for the Social Media Cosplay contest. What a great way to include fans who couldn’t make it to the con in person! Contestants just snapped a pic in front of the backdrop, con staff uploaded the pics with a specific hashtag and fans would be able to participate through on-line voting. Super fun!
This is a candid pic of me meeting Hacksaw Jack, taken by Eugene Shim, one of our live panel Cosplay judges, and Vanessa Shim is in the photo making her cosplay debut as “Rosita”. She looked awesome!
My daughter and I had a great time in the vendor hall. She enjoys talking to artists, something I discovered about her during SDCC. This year, I’m going pack a lunch while she chats up the comic book artists. And of course, we took a few photos in the hall. One with Michonne’s pets, one with the Well Walker and one with Melissa Hutchinson.
You’ll have to check the Walker Stalker Con website to see the full Cosplay contest, the official photographers grabbed some incredible images. We had a team entry who were dressed up as a mash-up between the Muppets and The Walking Dead. There was a duo of damsels dressed as walker Disney Princesses. A Dr. Who entrant, video game Cosplay, and of course dozens of walkers and stalkers crossed the stage. My friend in Cincinnati found this photo on social media someplace, not sure who took it.
No con is complete without an official celebrity photo op and my daughter chose to take hers with none other than Chandler Riggs. She floated back to the hotel with me and her smile lit up the San Francisco night sky. She kept saying that she was having the very best birthday ever. I’m grateful to Jason & Karen, Mr. Blahg, James and all of the WSC core staff and volunteers for being so welcoming to my daughter. Just look at that smile:
That was most of Day One of Walker Stalker Con San Francisco. More to come…